4 D.C. Gyms That Let You Try Before You Buy


At On the Glow, we remember a time when free trials and guest passes were considered standard fare at most gyms. You’d have the opportunity to check out the facilities, take a few classes, go on a tour, and then – if you were really interested – sit down with a sales manager and talk membership options.

However, our experience with organized fitness in D.C. has made us realize two things:

  1. A large population and a relatively small number of gyms means that the days of free passes are over; and,
  2. Most gyms not only charge full price for your first session, but they also pressure clients to purchase 6-12 month memberships by charging exorbitant drop-in fees.

To alleviate some of the pressure, and to help you make the most educated decision about where to get your sweat on, we’ve scoured the city to bring you the best free trials in Washington. Whether you’re looking to lift, stretch or spin your way to fitness, these 4 gyms are all about getting you to try before you buy!

1. CorePower Yoga

CorePower Yoga wants to be a place to call your fitness Om, which means making sure that prospective yogis receive unrestricted free access to the variety of classes and schedules available at their 3 downtown area locations. In fact, they’re so serious about your business that they offer a no-obligation week-long membership for anyone new to the studio.

The Low Down: CorePower Yoga is the Starbucks of yoga studios: consistent, convenient and cheap. While it might feel like you’re selling out to big-box yoga, one benefit of a chain is that you’re virtually guaranteed the same quality of instruction at each location (which is more than we can say for some other studios in the city).

With prime locations like CityCentre, Dupont Circle and Georgetown, CorePower makes it easy to squeeze in a yoga sesh during the workday. Out of town on business? No problem! CorePower membership gives you full access to classes at each of their 150 locations across the U.S.

2. Crossfit


While Crossfit boxes are notorious for their community-driven programming, no two are exactly the same. That’s why most Crossfit gyms offer free introductory classes to help prospective members find the right fit.

Some of our favourite boxes in the city include: District Crossfit, Crossfit DC (multiple locations) and Crossfit Balance (multiple locations). These boxes are not only beginner friendly, but offer alternative programming to suit a multitude of needs, including fat loss and flexibility.

The Low Down: Crossfit is technically challenging and the coaches at each box undergo rigorous training to attain their certification. As a result, the cost of monthly memberships is easily double what you would pay at a Globo Gym. That said, the one-on-one instruction during a 60 minute workout is the closest thing you’ll get to personal training for $25 an hour. Our advice? Pay the money up front and learn to lift properly – your body will thank you later. 

3. Zengo DC 

Zengo cycle has a unique membership model: instead of a monthly fee, they ask clients to buy credits to put towards classes. With so many cycling studios in the city charging upwards of $150 a month for unlimited classes, this program allows clients to pay for only what they use.

Since the demand for efficient cardio workouts is at an all time high, it’s little wonder that most cycling studios forgo free trials in lieu of a slightly reduced rate on your first drop-in session; however, Zengo cycle bucks this trend by offering would-be spin enthusiasts an opportunity to try out their signature 50 minute class free of charge.

The Low Down: Zengo cycle has 5 studios in the DMV, but only two are located downtown (North west, specifically). It’s definitely more of a local spin studio than a convenient stop on your commute home – but that doesn’t seem to deter people from flocking to their morning and evening classes.

The studio is busy and high energy, and people rave about the 50 minute full-body workout. Just remember to bring $3 for shoe rental if you don’t sport clip-in cycling shoes regularly. 

4. Vida Fitness


Vida fitness prides itself on being a Globo Gym with an old school health club feel. With amenities like rooftop pools, spas and juice bars at their new U Street and Yards locations, Vida easily ranks top of the big-box fitness franchise market.

With so much competition from boutique fitness clubs, Vida wants prospective members to see for themselves the benefits of belonging to a traditional gym. Stop by in person, or fill out an inquiry online, and a Vida representative will contact you the next day to schedule a free trial.

The Low Down: Yes, the membership coordinators can be a little pushy, but what do you expect when you’re dealing directly with a sales team? Plus, they’re generally pretty accommodating if you’re looking to try a few specific classes.

All in all, Vida offers a wide variety of classes at 6 prime locations downtown. If the reasonable membership rates and modern facilities don’t convince you to give this gym a try, we’re sure the Penthouse pool will.





Which ‘Best Gym’ in DC is Right for You


Now, even though here at On the Glow we promote a savvy fitness lifestyle, we’re aware that saving money all the time isn’t a practical option for working professionals who prefer to go the gym instead of exercising outdoors, or people who enjoy buying smoothies instead of recreating them at home with grocery store items. That’s why for this post I am going to review and rate some of the most popular gyms in DC, places where you can maximize your spending dollars and find the workout that works best for you.

For the sake of this post, I won’t be reviewing boutique gyms (CrossFit, cycling, yoga studios, etc.), just those that offer monthly memberships and have become part of the lifestyle of many Washingtonians: Washington Sports Clubs, VIDA Fitness, and Balance Gym. I will break down what each gym offers, assess their accessibility, outline their pros and cons, and determine which is the best based on their value.

Balance Gym

Balance. It’s a word you hear a lot on Capitol Hill. It does not all have to do with balancing budgets as much as it has to do with Balance Gym, the workout place of many congressional staffers and DC residents. Balance has been consistently rated DC’s top gym because of its numerous classes, convenient locations, and community-like atmosphere, and we find no reason to disagree with others’ assessment.

Hours: Weekdays 6:00 a.m.- 10:00 p.m., Weekends 8:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.

Locations: Four: Thomas Circle, Glover Park, Foggy Bottom, and Capitol Hill.

Amenities: Crossfit, Pilates, Dance Trance, and Physical Therapy (one of the only gyms in DC with in-house physical therapy services)

Offers memberships ranging from: $64- $89 per month

Pros: Reasonable pricing, great locations, Zumba, barre, and Piloxing (Pilates-boxing-dancing combo), high customer satisfaction

Cons: Only four locations, can get overcrowded

Grade: A

Balance is DC’s best gym for a variety of reasons, and at the end of the day it all comes down to customer satisfaction. How many gyms do you know with a weekly barbell club where its members routinely schedule happy hour together? Or a gym that offers a slew of classes in yoga, pilates, Crossfit, barre, and Zumba, and is also reasonably priced per month? Balance just proves how committed Washingtonians are to fitness, and how much they’re willing to throw down to get the most bang for their buck.

VIDA Fitness

While I have heard mixed reviews about VIDA, I tend to meet more satisfied than dissatisfied members from the popular gym. Memberships don’t come cheap here, but you won’t hear a lot of complaints from members in a gym that offers candlelight yoga, scenic ride cycling, kaishido kickboxing, and an hour-long boot camp program. The Yards location looks like something out of a Ridley Scott movie, and the intensity and liveliness of group classes are enough to keep anyone from leaving.

Hours: Weekdays 5:00 a.m. – 11 p.m., Weekends 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Locations: Six: City Vista, Metropole, Renaissance Hotel, U Street, Verizon, The Yards

Amenities: Studios, Aura Spa, Smoothie Bar, pool, quality weights and machines

Offers memberships ranging from: $70- $129 per month

Pros: Top-notch amenities, highly rated group classes, current members receive discounts at several businesses in D.C., including Bike Rack DC, Chop’t, and U Street Music Hall.

Cons: Pricey memberships, can get crowded

Grade: B+

Although VIDA is one of the pricier gyms in DC, many of its members love everything it has to offer. Many young professionals frequent the gym’s six locations and remain extremely loyal to the brand VIDA’s built in DC. If you can afford $70 a month and are serious about getting a good workout 4 to 5 days a week, this gym will definitely be one of your better options.

Washington Sports Clubs

When I first moved to D.C., I did not have the luxury of weighing the benefits between a $70/month or a $250/month gym membership. I did what most people do; I explored nearby gyms and found the one that was not too fancy, not too expensive, and allowed me to get a good workout every day. The winner was Washington Sports Clubs, a neighborhood gym with several locations in DC.

Hours: Weekdays 5:00 a.m. – 11 p.m., Weekends (Varies, usually 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.)

Locations: Seven, including Columbia Heights, Downtown, Dupont Circle, F Street, Gallery Place, Georgetown, Glover Park

Amenities: Sauna, Spinning Studio, 24/7 Personal Trainers (with fee), Pool (depends on the location), 59 different types of classes

Offers memberships ranging from: $29.99- $69.99 per month

Pros: Multiple locations, easy accessible, friendly environment, reasonable pricing.

Cons: Not fully loaded like other gyms, some locations lack enough space, staff-friendliness varies from gym to gym.

Grade: B

WSC is one of the more reasonably priced gyms in DC. It has the essentials, but not some of the fancier stuff you might see at VIDA or Balance. Its multiple locations and numerous classes make it extremely accessible. And although the club is not universally loved by Washingtonians, it is still a great option for anyone who wants to save a few extra bucks on a monthly membership.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree/disagree with my grades? What are your favorite gyms in DC and why? Leave your comments down below.